For homework last night we read The consequences of INSET, an ELT Journal article from 1995 by Martin Lamb (Volume 49 Issue 1, pp72-79). I’m really sorry to keep sharing articles which are hidden behind paywalls 😦 but hopefully my very short summary will give you the general idea. This article was a real eye-opener for me, and I hope you get to read the original at some point!
Teachers attending short INSET courses are usually exposed to a great amount of new information and ideas. While this can be exciting at the time, the after-effects may be less salutary. This article describes one particular INSET course and the reactions of the participating teachers one year later. It suggests that very few of this ideas presented on the course were taken up in the way anticipated by the tutors, mainly due to the mediating effects of the participants’ own beliefs about teaching and learning. Any INSET course which is seriously concerned with long-term change in teachers’ practice will have to take these beliefs into account.
Before reading this article, I knew that training that I do is not always taken wholesale into the classroom and incorporated into teachers’ practice – if anyone could manage that, it would be a miracle! But I suspected there were three states for any given activity/theory/idea I might present:
- No uptake
- Complete uptake
How wrong I was! In fact, according to a study done by Lamb there are lots of different ways that ideas from courses can be taken up. Interviewing and observing teachers one year after a 2-week, 25-hour course, Lamb found “seven different ways in which participants had reacted, consciously or unconsciously, to ideas presented on the course” (p75):
- No update
- Labelling (applying a term to an activity they were already doing)
- Appropriation (justifying changes in teaching not anticipated by the tutors)
- Assimilation (transferring techniques without necessarily understanding the rationale)
- Adaptation and rejection
In short, very few of the ideas from the training were actually incorporated into the practice of the participants, although they had responded positively to the course.
As a result, Lamb highlights the importance of making participants aware of their routine practice and the values [beliefs] behind it. He also reminds us that participants should decide which areas to develop and “formulate their own agenda for change” (p79).
For me, it’s another example of the importance of including an examination of teacher beliefs in training courses, something which I rarely remember being included in any of the training I have done or delivered (!) but will definitely be adding to my training!
As part of my CAM I had to teach a lesson and then evaluate it. It was my first attempt at Task-Based Learning (more on that in a later post). The evaluation was done in two ways:
- a self-created questionnaire which I filled in after the lesson.
- a questionnaire for the students, again which I created.
This is my completed self-evaluation. I based the questions on a handout we were given during the input session, some ideas from ‘Learning Teaching’ by Jeremy Harmer, and my own knowledge of my strengths and weaknesses (hence, for example, the question about instructions).
- Did you fulfil the lesson aims? What evidence do you have to support this?
- They will have been introduced to and practised the use of participle clauses to replace both active and passive subject + verb constructions in relative clauses and following conjunctions. (Devastated by the fact…, Because he is devastated; carefully keeping, who is carefully keeping)
We practised the use in class. Two of the SS will need more practise of this to feel comfortable with it, but the other four had no trouble with the clauses. All three groups managed to include at least one participle clause in their final film review.
- They will become more accurate and confident in using adjectives they have previously learnt for describing books / films (depressing, entertaining, fast-moving, gripping, haunting, heavy-going, implausible, intriguing, moving, thought-provoking)
All groups correctly incorporated at least one of these adjectives in their reviews.
- They will become more accurate and confident in the use of adverbs of degree to modify (the above) adjectives, including the difference in register implied by the choice of different adverbs. (a bit, slightly, a little, really, very, absolutely, rather, pretty, quite, incredibly, extremely)
Although this was not something which the students included in their reviews, they became aware of register differences which they did not know about before the lesson.
- They will become more aware of the typical contents and layout of a review. (Introduction including author / director’s name; plot outline; strong points of the book film; weak points; whether the reviewer recommends the book; who the book is suitable for)
The review improved between the first and second versions as students were more aware of what they needed to include in the review.
- How involved were the learners in the lesson? Were they responsive to the materials, tasks, each other?
The learners were really involved in the tasks. They spoke English throughout the whole lesson, and were enthusiastic about writing, which is unusual! The tasks were motivating for them.
- How closely did you follow your lesson plan? Was it necessary to deviate for the lesson to be successful?
I didn’t need to deviate at all. The lesson worked without a problem.
- How realistic was your timing for these learners?
It was realistic – one task took 5 minutes less, and one 5 minutes more, but overall it was as I planned.
- Was there sufficient variety in the interaction patterns during the lesson?
Yes. There was pairwork, groupwork and individual work.
- Were your instructions clear at all times? Did learners need more / less explanation than you gave them originally?
The instructions I gave were clear. SS understood what they had to do.
- What did learners need more / less of in your lesson which you had not included in the plan?
Nothing – everything they needed was covered effectively in the plan.
- Was sufficient error correction given? Was the correction clear? Did SS activate the corrected language at all?
This was only an issue during the controlled practice. SS activated the corrected language by changing answers in their book and then saying the sentences out loud. They then used the newly acquired language in the writing they produced.
- What were you pleased with at the end of the lesson? Why?
I was pleased with the way that the students responded to a TBL lesson. They were always engaged and enjoyed the writing – this is unusual as writing is often seen as a ‘boring’ topic.
- What features of the lesson would you change in the future? Why?
The only thing I would change is to make it clear to students that they should spend the first five minutes brainstorming ideas and planning when writing their first draft. I wrote this stage in my plan, but failed to do it in the lesson. Apart from that I would teach the same lesson again, depending on the students.
To collect feedback from the students I decided it would be easiest to create a form using Google Docs. Here is a link to a pdf version of the document (SS completed it online).
Lesson Evaluation for SS to complete
Here are a couple of the students’ comments:
- “I liked the idea of correcting the text we’ve written right in the lesson (for example making the sentences shorter by using participles). I also found it interesting to read the other’s work and trying to compare it or to find some mistakes.”
- “The most useful thing about today’s lesson was that we could immediately apply new things we’d learnt in the writing and therefore remember them better.”
Overall it was a very useful exercise, and something I will probably repeat when doing further action research. It was certainly good for my ego too! 🙂